Soundtrack to Your Life

Ashley Parker Angel

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Soundtrack to Your Life Review

by Matt Collar

Back in the first season of ABC's reality show Making the Band, before MTV and Sean "Puffy" Combs took over the reigns of the pop group audition show created by "boy band" impresario Lou Pearlman, ABC introduced an angel -- Ashley Angel to be precise -- to the world. All blonde spiky hair and bright blue eyes, 19-year-old Angel had a sweet voice and an even sweeter smile. For two years Angel lived his saccharine dream as a boy band superstar of O-Town. Despite a minor hit with "Liquid Dreams," the group quickly dropped from the public's consciousness, disbanding in 2001. Five years later, Ashley Parker Angel -- the Parker stands for older and wiser -- returned with another reality show, MTV's There and Back, chronicling his struggle to record his first solo debut album. Gone are the cheesy dance moves and shiny metallic shirts; in their place are a respectable mop of shaggy hair and, surprisingly, some great melodic rock. In fact, the aptly titled Soundtrack to Your Life, born out of a reality show that saw Angel toil with creative and financial woes as well as the birth of his son, Lyric, is a tart and heartfelt collection of '70s singer/songwriter and power pop. Put together, those influences end up falling somewhere between the earnest balladeering of the Goo Goo Dolls and the driving rock of the All-American Rejects. If the album is a little front-loaded, at least it works to good effect; the middle half of the album meanders stylistically, including a few attempts at a semi-electro Depeche Mode production style. These aren't bad songs, but they distract somewhat from the straight-ahead melodic rock that is the album's signature sound. The front-loading seems even more perplexing as two incredibly moving and tuneful ballads, the Todd Rundgren-esque "Where Did You Go" and the emotionally cinematic "Apology," are buried near the end of the album. Of course, this is just nitpicking, and one is still left with the overall impression of sincerity and bright melodicism. In fact, these are all original songs by Angel, albeit co-written with a small group of collaborator/producers, but rather than ending up with a shallow and overly produced collection of canned tracks, Angel, much like his likably goofy persona on There and Back, reveals himself as a nice guy with a knack for a catchy melody.

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